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I ate some ants once. I tipped a snack-sized box of raisins into my mouth and it turned out to be a snack-sized box of ants. We lived in Auckland at the time, population 1 million humans and about 10 billion ants.
The other impressive local fauna included massive nits. The All Blacks of the nit world. If you wanted to know whether or not your child had nits, you didn’t need a diagnostic electric comb; you just took a casual glance at their scalp and saw them scuttling about like ants on steroids having a humongous family reunion. I still can’t hear the Harry Potter music without instantly smelling the particular conditioner we used by the bucket load for the ‘bug-busting’ routine. Proust had his madeleines, I have my nit combing.
I reckon there’s a hierarchy of revoltingness. I had a chap in on Friday with an itchy bottom, and when I mentioned that the differential included worms - well, it was as if he’d had a mouthful of stinging ants. I suppose I should be more empathic.
The concept of little wriggly creatures coming out of your bottom in the night to explosively lay their eggs in the lovely warm moist habitat of your buttocks, causing intense itching, inevitable scratching, eggs under your finger nails… so when you pause to have a good hard think about the phrase ‘faeco-oral’, a certain level of emotional reaction is quite understandable.
My niece once saw a freshly-hatched specimen crawling around on her toothbrush. I’ve heard a statistic that 40 per cent of children have thread worms at any one time. It might even be true.
When we returned to the UK and I saw GPs eating sandwiches at their desks at work, I was pretty revolted. I mean, I know what goes on in these consulting rooms, and no matter how carefully you wash your hands and wear your gloves, there’s no way you can be 100 per cent certain that you didn’t accidentally touch the computer mouse with a sleeve that brushed against the swab you just took of some pretty fruity discharge.
I eat my lunch at my desk with the best of them now. It’s that or no lunch at all. In fact, quietly filing blood results while munching the old egg and cress feels like a luxurious bit of me-time in the maelstrom of your average GP day.
At the end of a flat-out 12 hours, I sometimes try to remember why I decided to come back to the UK; what exactly was it about actual hygienic lunch breaks, shorter working days, longer summers, and fish and chips on the beach that I didn’t like? I’m even starting to feel a little nostalgic for those delicious ants.
Felicitas Woodhouse is a GP in Warwickshire and was the winner of the 2016 BMA writing competition. She writes under a pseudonym
The heading on bMA email says you returned from Australia but surely Auckland is in NZ can you explain ?
Auckland, All Blacks oh drear BMA !
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